Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009)

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009) – I have never actually read any of David Foster Wallace’s work. I have tried to start Infinite Jest a couple times, but things keep coming up and I can’t quite devote the full measure of focus needed for tackling such a dense book. I will do it someday, though. Anyway he’s one of those people I have heard mentioned as one of the great modern authors. I always sort of vaguely meant to check him out. Then, of course, he offed himself in 2008. That was about when I picked up Infinite Jest. I don’t know what it is about an artist’s death that suddenly makes you regard their work as potentially more profound… Anyway this is all a very roundabout way to say that I am not particularly familiar with Wallace’s work, including Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. I know it is a book of short stories as opposed to a novel. The last time I saw one of those turned into a movie it was The Informers, which was… let’s say “interesting.” Also piquing my curiosity is that this is the directorial debut of actor John Krasinski.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is set up as, surprise surprise, a series of interviews. The interviewer, a character I am told is not in the book (not having read it myself), is Sara (Julianne Nicholson from Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Boardwalk Empire). Some of the subjects are people in her life. Others are strangers she eavesdrops on. The subjects are played by (deep breathe here) Will Arnett, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Cerveris, Josh Charles, Dominic Cooper, Frankie Faison, Will Forte, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, Timothy Hutton, Christopher Meloni, Chris Messina, Max Minghella, Denis O’Hare, Clarke Peters, Lou Taylor Pucci, Ben Shenkman, Joey Slotnick, Corey Stoll, and Krasinski himself. Each has their own story expressed in monologue or dialogue that, I assume, made up the short stories of the book. Many actors do great in this roles. Director Krasinski saved one of the best monologues for himself… he delivers but I think someone else could have done better. Many of the stories express some kind of less-than-ideal attitude about women (putting it mildly).

The movie never really works as anything other than a showcase for actors to work with well-written material. I know that sounds kind of a like a good thing but it’s not. The movie never gels, no comes together in any effective way. The frame story imposed on the book doesn’t really do anything for the film and I can’t help but wonder is a series of vignettes would have been more effective. The book has been previously adapted as a play, and I would be interested to see is the play has a better approach to the material. Hell, more than anything this movie just makes me want to read the book (maybe as a stepping stone before attempting to summit Infinite Jest again). If anything this movie feels like great ingredients adding up to a missed opportunity. It makes me want to try the source material out, because it would have had to have been handled better than this.

One Response to “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009)”
  1. dolbsterthepoet says:

    Great piece, thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

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